MissPres News Roundup 9-4-2010

Since preservation is of course not limited to Mississippi and there is a number of national (or at least non-Mississippi) news articles that have piqued my interest, this is a special edition of the MissPres News Roundup.

And here is the news.

The first comes from al.com, specifically from The Birmingham News (thank you Mitchell Memorial Library for canceling your subscription to that paper). This is a photo gallery called “Cecil Whitmire’s Legacy.” The late Cecil Whitmire is not the star of the gallery, the Lyric Theater is, which Whitmire raised money to restore. The Lyric Theater is perhaps the greatest urban ruin in the South and one of the greatest in the country, along the lines of Detroit’s famous Michigan Theater. Cecil Whitmire is an important preservation figure, instrumental in saving the Alabama Theater in Birmingham. His biography and his obituary from al.com should provide more details on his efforts.

From Huntsville, Alabama, again from al.com, which is an online partnership between The Huntsville Times, The Birmingham Times, and the Mobile Press-Register, is the article “I-565, County Line Road interchange plans changed to avoid ‘historic’ house.” A fieldstone bungalow constructed in the 1930s in then rural Madison County has rerouted an Interstate exit due to its National Register eligibility. I have been over to that area before but do not definitively remember that particular house. However, this gives me a chance to gloat over the state of preservation in Alabama versus the state of preservation in Mississippi, though I really shouldn’t. This does show that Mississippi can preserve its architectural heritage. If a bungalow in Alabama that is not even on the National Register can reroute an Interstate exit, think what you can put your mind to in this state.

The Tuscaloosa News has several interesting preservation-related articles from the past several weeks. Although I have read The Tuscaloosa News a few times in the past during my visits to that part of the state, reading the News the last few weeks has cemented it as possibly my second favorite Alabama paper for historical and preservation articles (Montgomery Advertiser is my favorite, MSU does not receive that paper).

From the July 23 paper is the article “Bridge project nearly set” about the reconstruction of an 1882 iron bowstring bridge in Northport (which, to give you some geographical meaning, is on the north side of the Black Warrior River, across from Tuscaloosa, both in Tuscaloosa County).

The second article is from July 28 “Museum named in honor of arts patron.” The Queen City Bathhouse in Tuscaloosa is being transformed into a transportation museum called the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum. Interesting, but merely an excuse for me to write about this great building. I have been accused of hating Modernism; however, it is much more fair to say that I hate European Modernism and its influence on American architecture. In general, I can write off most Modernist buildings as crapitecture for that reason. The Queen City Bathhouse is not even in the same league as that type of architecture. I mean just look at it! It was designed by Don Buel Schuler (1888-1972), a Wichita-born architect who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and practiced in Alabama from 1926 to 1967. The bathhouse is a mixture of Prairie and Art Deco styles and, in addition to the great bathhouse, contains a large fountain next to the (filled-in) Olympic-sized swimming pool. The pool was in use from 1943 to 1989 and was added to the National Register in 1992 (it was constructed in 1941 as a WPA project). It has been abandoned since 1989 and was named to the Alabama Places in Peril list in 1998. Now that is architecture you will never see me throw stones at.

Speaking of places in peril, the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation have released their annual Places in Peril list. The standard eleven sites are on this year’s list

  • Auburn Train Depot, Auburn, Lee County
  • Bankhead House, Sulligent, Lamar County
  • Bankhead-Shackelford House, Courtland, Lawrence County
  • Coosa County Farmer’s and Civic Association, Rockford, Coosa County
  • Cricket Theater, Collinsville, DeKalb County
  • Kelly-Stone-Hill House, Carrollton, Pickens County
  • Magee Farm, Kushla, Mobile County
  • Old Federal Road, Russell, Macon, Montgomery, Lowndes, Butler, Monroe, Conecuh, Escambia, Baldwin, and Mobile Counties
  • Shorter Cemetery, Eufaula, Barbour County
  • Historic Wood Windows, statewide
  • Cotton Mills, statewide

More details about these sites can be found in the July-August Preservation Report  (a PDF file) or, with more in-depth write-ups and better graphics, in the upcoming Fall issue of Alabama Heritage magazine. I am rather ashamed because I have spent a good deal of time in Courtland (it is a county away from my home) but do not have a picture of the Bankhead-Shackelford House. I have taken pictures of numerous other structures in Courtland, usually during their annual Christmas historic house tours, but never this house, which is one of my favorites (though not the most opulent or spectacular in Courtland).

The August 2 edition of The Tuscaloosa News contained two more preservation stories. The first is “Lloyd Hall redesign complete” about the renovation of historic Lloyd Hall at the University of Alabama. Constructed in 1927, Lloyd helps define the eastern side of the Quad. The second story from that day’s paper is “Charity group honors architect.” The article discusses the Annual Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society fundraiser. The subject of that fundraiser was D. O. Whilldin (1881-1970), a Birmingham-based architect who worked on about sixty Tuscaloosa projects, as well as some in Gadsden, Alabama. The Birmingham Historical Society recently published Mark Warner’s D. O. Whilldin: Alabama Architect, the definitive (and only) work on this architect.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution homefinder section is mostly just upper middle-class people with no taste in decorating showing off their lack of taste to other McMansion-dwelling yahoos. However, the July 25 section did something different, spotlighting the restoration of a Lustron House in Atlanta, one of only two left in the city. The actual article is not online but a photo gallery is. Thankfully, the right owner found this Lustron, which was marketed as a tear-down four years ago, during the height of inappropriate infill housing. This owner did a great restoration as well, detailed in many of the photo captions in the gallery.

While not a specific story, I would like to spotlight Christopher Gray’s “Streetscapes” column in The New York Times. I have enjoyed his Sunday column for years, and it is one of only a few columns that I will purchase a paper specifically to read.

Hoping across the continent we find Gray’s West Coast counterpart, Sam Watters at The Los Angeles Times. Unfortunately, Watters’s column “Lost L. A.” only appears on the first Saturday of the month, not weekly like Gray’s “Streetscapes.”

There are two other articles from the Times that I will draw your attention to. The first “Behind the pawnshop lies a surprising pedigree” is about a Pasadena pawnshop at 65 E. Colorado Blvd. that also happens to be the only surviving Greene and Greene commercial building. The second is “Man of Steel” describing 85-year-old Beverley Thorne, the last surviving Case Study architect. Thorne, who went by his professional name David at that time, designed Case Study House No. 26. Unlike many Case Study Houses, No. 26 left the drawing board and was constructed in 1963. Thorne also designed two houses for Jazz legend Dave Brubeck before shunning his Case Study fame. He went back to his baptized name, Beverley, and has worked in “relative anonymity” to “keep his work honest” since that time.

And that was the news.

In a new apologies section which I should probably include in all my posts, I would like to apologize to European Modernists with no taste and Atlanta McMansion-dwellers with no taste for insinuating that you have no taste.



Categories: Architectural Research, Depots, Historic Preservation, Modernism, National Register, News Roundups, Preservation People/Events, Theaters, Universities/Colleges

9 replies

  1. All that counts is that the apology SEEMS sincere, W., not that it BE sincere ;-)

    Like

  2. re: moving an interstate exit to preserve a deteriorating bungalow near huntsville alabama. “preserving heritage” is an all too easy (and nebulous) rallying cry for this and similar preservation projects that i suspect will contribute little to the common good.

    or as a comment on the cited website astutely observed:

    “Some of us …don’t think it makes sense to re-engineer an inter-change for an old house that MAY be eligible for placement on the historic register. On the other hand it MAY just be left to rot down in which case taxpayers money has been wasted for nothing.”

    Like

  3. I’m ambivalent about the Section 106 process–the federal review process that determines whether federally funded projects negatively impact historic properties. On the one hand, I think it can be a good tool, especially in urban environments where it can protect historic neighborhoods from poorly designed road projects that might otherwise rip them apart. On the other hand, I didn’t see it as helpful in the Katrina response, where FEMA just essentially said “yes this is a negative impact but we’re tearing it down anyway.” And in these kinds of rural road projects, you do end up with a result that makes everyone wonder why they spent so much time and effort on it. Don’t get me wrong, I love old bungalows, and I think that the rural environment, especially in the South, is disappearing so fast that maybe shotguns and bungalows have become so rare as to be given extra consideration. But as preservationists, is our time effectively spent on this kind of battle (and believe me, this little newspaper article represents probably hundreds of man-hours of preservationists and a lot of money to consultants to bring about) when much more prominent and (arguably) important properties are languishing from lack of attention and money?

    As I said I’m ambivalent–I’m glad the bungalow will be saved, but I worry that stories like this only re-emphasize the idea that seems to be gaining traction more and more that preservation as a movement has gone off the rails.

    Like

  4. I also wanted to say that I found the Alabama Places in Peril list interesting, especially the attention they’re drawing to historic wood windows. Our own Mississippi list comes out bi-annually, and will be unveiled next Spring, so now is the time to start thinking about places we would like to nominate. I think I’ll nominate cotton gins–seems like everywhere I turn, another one is going out of business due to the rise of corn in Mississippi. Will there be a time when we say “Corn is King”?

    Like

  5. Hey, you forgot to apologize to the Atlanta Modernist/brutalist-concrete condominium dweller types!

    Just kidding.

    Like

  6. You’ve created a monster, W., but it’s your monster so I’ll leave it to you to deal with :-)

    Like

  7. Rust seeks partners in restoration

    Associated Press – September 6, 2010 10:54 AM ET
    HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) – Rust College has asked the Marshall County Board of Supervisors to support its application for a $800,000 grant to help restore five historic buildings on the former Mississippi Industrial College campus.
    The property was given to Rust College a year or so ago for management and redevelopment.
    Clencie Cotton, with the Rust College Community Development Corporation, also asked for $10,000 over three years from the county.
    Rust is a historically black college in Holly Springs with an enrollment of about 900.

    Like

  8. One of the amazing things about this site is that articles almost two years old (and the related comments) are as fresh and intriguing as articles posted and comments in the last week. This tokens an amazingly high and consistent standard. Just how the various “European Modernists with no taste and Atlanta McMansion-dwellers with no taste” relish the prospect of years of elbows in the ribs I cannot imagine, but I enjoy everything I find.

    Like

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  1. MissPres News Roundup 9-13-2010 | Preservation in Mississippi

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